Diversity and Inclusion Efforts: Why Do They Often Exclude White Men?

Companies today deploy a variety of tactics aimed at increasing diversity and creating a more inclusive environment. Two common activities include forming a taskforce or creating Employee Resource Groups (ERG, also called Affinity Groups). Often these efforts include few white men, particularly those with power in the company.

At The Impact Seat, we talk with many straight white men who truly care about being part of a diverse workforce, but they don’t participate in ERGs or on taskforces.

An innovative approach to attracting more straight white men to your diversity and inclusion efforts is the same approach a company might take for customer discovery.

What’s the Product/Market Fit for Diversity and Inclusion?

Innovative companies know their customers and seek the motivations that make them buy. It’s a constant process of testing and experimenting, and identifying product/market fit is a core competence of innovative companies.

What if companies applied the same skills in testing product/market fit to engaging in Diversity and Inclusion?

Are Your Inclusion Efforts a Niche Product?

For most companies to grow, they need to create a product that has an appeal beyond a niche market. If your Diversity and Inclusion activities only attract a narrow slice of your workforce, you are probably serving a niche group. If you want your company to become more inclusive, you need to get wider adoption. You need a broader customer base. Numerous books map out strategies for growing companies from the first round of customers to scaling rapidly. The thought process in growing a SaaS (Software as a Service) company can be similar for scaling diversity efforts. You’ve possibly “sold” your diversity and inclusion product to your most ardent customers, but now you need to scale. Let customer discovery get you there.

Exploration Centered on Non-Consumers

Clayton Christensen from Harvard Business School has written about the innovator's opportunity to capitalize on the non-consumer. His theory is that in some markets, the non-consumers drive innovation. He used examples like the explosion of online learning outside of traditional college-attending demographics to demonstrate this.

Currently, white men are the non-consumers in Diversity and Inclusion practices. Not because they aren’t interested, but they often haven’t found a product they want to buy. In customer discovery, you explore motivations to buy. This may lead you to innovations in diversity and inclusion.

Vitamins or Painkillers?

Vitamins are good for you and have a long term benefit. Painkillers solve immediate problems. In business, we often look for painkillers because the buyer is more motivated. What’s the pain point for your target demographic? You might be trying to sell a vitamin.

Create Personas of Your Target Customers.

Putting a name, occupation, habits, and preferences to your target makes communication, strategy and execution more realistic. This is a classic tactic.

Focus Groups

Hear directly from the “target market” you are trying to attract. It can be difficult to solicit honest and candid feedback on issues of diversity and inclusion. But, that’s true in customer research as well. Ask anyone who surveys people about their exercise regime or their alcohol consumption - how can you structure a focus group or a survey that gets honest answers?

Use Your Skills

Using your skills at identifying product/market fit and customer discovery isn’t the only strategy you can deploy to engage more men in your Diversity and Inclusion efforts. It just makes sense to use the business skills you already have to bring innovation to Diversity and Inclusion practices.


Barbara Clarke